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Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has made the public commitment to become the first carbon neutral country in the world by the year 2021. The current Costa Rican president has also made a promise to deliver between five and seven percent GDP growth to future generations by going forward in the pursuit of a high technology economy created on principles surrounding environmental sustainability. The conditions to do cleantech business in Costa Rice are ripe as many government policies have been created to encourage outside clean technology companies bring their goods and services to Costa Rica as there are many resources available.

1) Study Abroad Programs to Costa Rica to Learn about Renewable Energy. Many universities, such as Utah State University and their energy programs and physics programs have done numerous study abroad programs to study renewable energy in Costa Rica because of the use of renewable energy sources, including geothermal, sugar cane waste, sun, wind, and biomass, its implementation and the research and development into further sources.

2) Costa Rica to become first Carbon Neutral Country. Costa Rica has made the pledge to run its country’s electric grid exclusively using renewable energy sources by the year 2021. This government sponsored strategy will make it the first carbon neutral country throughout the globe. Germany has actually been a top supporter of Costa Rica’s goal stating that the economic stability along with Costa Rica’s financial security make it attractive for international investment. One wind company, Juwi Wind GmbH, who has been responsible for helping increase the wind energy in Costa Rica, said that the country has great wind potential, and its overall goal is something that Germany can stand behind.

3) United States and Costa Rica Partnership. The United States and Costa Rica have long had a sustainable partnership in creating an Energy Efficiency Center in Costa Rica. The center is to assist in the advancement of Costa Rica’s sustainable energy future. The center “will develop an advanced train the trainer program that will certify professionals in several clean and efficient technologies and will establish a regional base of knowledge in mechanisms and state of the art technologies in the energy efficiency field by promoting regional public and private public sector’s abilities.”

4) Solar Energy Capabilities. Because of Costa Rica’s devotion to renewable energy, many small, impoverished villages are finally enjoying electricity through the use of solar panels. In many far and impoverished areas, electricity, telephones and cooking mechanisms have been introduced using solar panels. Through the United Nations Development Program, thousands of dollars were funded to assist in the formation of a national solar power network. This funding assisted in breaking the financial limitations hoisted on Costa Rica because of the expensive cost of equipment. According to Hanz Kurz, resident representative of the UNDP, the benefits that families receive from this project are numerous as “they [previously]used candles and petrol to light their homes, just as the rest of Costa Rica did a hundred years ago.”

5) Wind Energy Capabilities. Wind power has real potential growth in Costa Rica because of the high winds that travel throughout the country. In most locations, average wind speed is between 15 and 20 miles per hour, and only nine miles per hour winds are required for favorable rates of energy efficiency. Much more funding is starting to go into wind energy as it is being looked as a more favorable alternative since solar power is expensive and the dry season affects the amount of hydroenergy created. The World Bank has provided funds for three various wind projects from its Prototype Carbon Fund, and other companies, such as The New World Power Corporation, Global Energy Concepts, and the International Finance Corporation have provided aid, research, development, and training.

6) Financial Incentives to get to Renewable Energy. Costa Rica has created a number of financial incentives to promote further renewable energy business in the country. In 2010, for example, an amendment was made to the tax exemption act, to further promote the use of renewable energy by getting rid of 13 percent of the tax burden that had been previously levied on solar-powered kitchens and solar panels, as well as heaters, refrigerators, and other products that run on renewable sources of energy. As part of the Costa Rican Energy Plan, the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity will provide further incentives for companies and residences that elect to install solar panel as well as biomass generation systems.

7) Costa Rica Green Building Council. The Costa Rica Green Building Council is a non-profit organization that looks to certify sustainable businesses, hospitals, schools, neighborhoods, and homes. This organization is dedicated to expanding all green building practices throughout the country and provides education on renewable energy sources. The council follows the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System, which encourages as well as accelerates the global adoption of sustainable green development and building practices.

8 ) Boston Scientific Plant to be First Sustainable Building in Costa Rica. In 2010, the Boston Scientific Plant, a company which employs over 1,700 individuals has become the first building to be completely eco-friendly in Costa Rica. The floors are made from cork and the framework was constructed from recycled building materials, and even the paint used contained no toxic chemicals. The plant employed the use of solar panels for its power source and has numerous windows to supply the plant with natural light. The United States Green Building Council recognized it as the nation’s first fully sustainable building and it has received LEED certification.

9) Costa Rica Joins World Green Building Council. Because of its efforts in adopting clean technologies and its goal to be completely run by renewable energy, Costa Rica was inducted into the World Green Building Council. It has been not only their goal that got them this induction, but the necessary steps they have taken to ensure that this goal is achieved. According to Craig Williamson, a member of the CRGBC, “It provides Costa Rica real estate developers the tools and information needed to make sustainability and carbon neutrality an attainable goal.”

10) Sustainable Eco-City. Alouatta, a Costa Rican city, has numerous “green house” residences, designed by architects that have “engineered a city of freehold residences and condo clusters in the jungle. The designs demonstrate that a community can be both beautiful and sustainable in the midst of large tracts of native vegetation that allow for riparian protection areas.” Based on the use of water conservation techniques, materials selection, energy efficiency, and indoor environmental air quality the developers are asking for LEED certification.

Article by Shawn Lesser, president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which is focused on fund-raising for private equity cleantech/sustainable funds, as well as private cleantech companies and M&A. He is also a co- founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association, and can be reached at